77 Cents on Your Dollar

I’m about to knock my glass off the table to get the bartender’s attention. Cameltoe Joe walked by once already. No he raced by. My beer was already skimming the bottom, little more than foam, but he didn’t notice, didn’t offer me a fresh one. Didn’t even make eye contact. He grabbed the empty off the table and sped away, his eyes locked on the television over the bar. It was on a commercial break but that could change at any moment. I tried to swallow enough of the salad in my mouth to order another beer before he got away but he was too fast.

“You’re still waiting?” Julia yells, loud enough you would think she’d get his attention, as she slides back into the booth.

“Yup.”

“I smoked a whole Newport and fixed my mascara.” She agrees that I should have shoved the pounder to it’s demise on the stained floor. “I bet he makes more than you in tips too,” she jeers.

My blood boils. It’s true. When I started bartending I was naive enough to believe that I had found the magical profession where I would be immune to wage discrimination. If anything my hot young body would get me a few extra dollars, right? Wrong. For every extra percent a customer might give me for my looks, another stiffed me altogether for being a chick.

A touchdown is scored. There are cheers and high fives. “I’m just going to go up to the bar.”

Julia slurps her bloody mary. “Order me another too.”

I would if I could.

There are instant replays and more cheers and high fives and I’m standing there waiting and waiting and he’s staring at the TV with this huge smile on his face. I’m getting thirsty but there’s no way I can get his attention without looking like a total bitch. So I wait and stew on my friend’s words. I know she’s right. I’ve seen it in action. Whole groups of women won’t tip other women. All sorts of people take their racism out on their servers, not just in how they treat them, but financially too. Of course old white men can be the worst. They respect someone that looks like them behind the bar. But a female? It’s not a real job when a female does it. There’s a guy that come’s into my bar. We call him Grumpy. He’s rude as shit to all the girls. Never tips, doesn’t even leave us his change no matter how good of service we give him or how much we kiss his ass. But the one male bartender, the one bartender who is just like Cameltoe Joe right here and doesn’t pay a damn bit of attention to customers, Grumpy leaves him twenty percent and plenty of compliments.

“Wow you must have wowed him,” I said to Geoff one day after retrieving Grumpy’s Visa receipt.

“I guess,” he snorted. “I haven’t moved from this spot since he got here.” It was true. Geoff never gave table service. Just watched ESPN from his corner behind the bar. Customers came to him or they didn’t get anything to drink.

So I’m remembering all of this, really freaking out about it, wanting nothing more than to let my rage erupt in a riot, when Cameltoe finally turns around and looks me right in my beet red face.

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No Tip For You Fancy

coinsSometimes you can just tell when someone is going to stiff you. The second they walk in the door, greasy hair, stained and torn Coors Light t-shirts, you know you’re working for free. One of them opens her smelly toothless mouth and confirms it. “What’s the cheapest drink you got? I want something fancy.”

Fancy. Yeah I’m sure you do. Fucking white trash.

Oh I know what you’re thinking─ I’m just stereotyping people. And you’re right. I am. But you can get off your moral high horse. We all look the same to you anyway. And it’s not like I act on it. I’ll still give them good service regardless. I always do. I give them the chance to prove me wrong too. But when they don’t and there’s a crowd around the bar guess who is getting served last? True some bartenders take it too far and treat people badly. Or grumble because certain ethnic groups never tip them. They don’t even realize they’re burning their tips so I can’t speak for them. Learn to say “gracias”, show people that you’re willing to make some effort and they will tip; our business is hospitality after all . . .

So anyway back to Ms. Fancy. “Our cheapest drinks are $3. But they’re just wells, they’re not fancy.” She’s got to be at least fifty and I have to explain to her what a well drink is. Then she asks me if I can make it fancy.” I repeat what I just finished describing to her: “It’s one cheap liquor and one juice or soda. Vodka cranberry, rum and coke . . .”

“I’ll take a vodka cranberry. And make it strong!” Hey kids here’s a quick tip: don’t do that. Don’t ever grill the bartender on the cheapest drink and then demand an extra pour. You get an ounce and half. No more. (Unless I really like you and I don’t). But you might get less if you piss me off.

Here’s another: if you can’t afford to tip then you can’t afford to go out. I know you’ve heard that one before. Everyone has. We don’t work for our hourly wage (which is less than three bucks an hour in most states, not mine thankfully). I have a college degree. I don’t work for minimum wage. I do this job because most of the time I like it but if people aren’t going to tip then I get a job in a different industry. Same is true for all bartenders of quality. Don’t tip and all you’ll be left with are idiots that can’t focus on you what with all the distractions like phones and cigarettes and oooh is that a cute boy?

I pour her drink and a cheap beer for her friend who she makes sure to tell me is an alcoholic. Fantastic. I count back her change and then she wants twenty dollars in ones so she can feed the lottery machine slow on penny games. When she finally walks away the bar is empty. Not even the coins.

We’re pretty busy tonight though so I’m not too worried. Four girls come in next and make a beeline for a table. I get their drinks and try to give them a few minutes to look over the menu like most people prefer.

“Aren’t you going to take our order?” the first one snaps.

Whoah girl simmer down! I look them over and say, “Let me grab some paper.” There’s no way I’m going to remember EVERYTHING.

When I return the first girl rattles off, “I’ll take the bar platter and the bacon cheeseburger with fries and she’ll have the monster burger with onion rings.”

Then girl number three, “We’ll take a bar platter and a monster burger with fries.”

“Ok I’ll get that right in.”

I start to walk away and girl three snaps, “Aren’t you going to get her order?”

My bad. I didn’t realize that when you said “we’ll take” you just meant yourself. Considering you just ordered enough for three or four people anyway. . . But what I say is, “Oh I’m so sorry what can I get you?”

Girl three snarls and looks down her nose at me while girl four answers, “I’ll take the side salad.” Now I don’t think I need to bother describing the weight of these girls. It’s probably pretty obvious. But I will say that I was a little worried that the first three might eat the last one if their food didn’t come up fast enough.

I’m putting their order in, my back to the bar, when Ms. Fancy comes back. “Excuse me!” she calls. “Excuse me!” I tell her I’ll be right with her and she stands there tapping her video lottery ticket on the bar and sighing. I take my sweet fucking time on the POS. When I turn around to help her she tells me she wants a strong fancy drink. “What do you have for three dollars?”

Really? We’re really going to do this again? Yup. And again. And again. Not a single dollar, not a single quarter, not even a penny for my trouble. The fourth time she makes sure to tell me: “I brought back all the glasses from the lottery room for you.” Like she did me a favor or something.

I just look at her. I hold back telling her it was the least she could do, bringing her own glasses back when she isn’t tipping. It would be nice if she would wash them while she’s at it.

Meanwhile the group of girls needs their waters refilled and then buckets of ranch when their food is up. Their bill comes to 57.93. They leave 2.07 on the table.

Up next . . . read about how not even bartenders are immune from wage discrimination in 77 Cents on Your Dollar

So This is What Pissy Drunk Means

shots shots shotsThings were different the first time around. I was younger, more patient, and better practiced in the ways of alcoholism. The bar on campus where I earned tuition closed early and we were always out of there by one and at the bar down the street by ten after; an hour and twenty minutes to take as many shots and chug as many beers as we could swallow. Even on weekdays when I closed by myself, I’d find someone to party with. If they were hot I might stumble home with them. Even if they weren’t . . . well sometimes tequila makes it easier to overlook a butterface or way too much gut. The next morning I would crawl out of bed, sometimes mine, sometimes someone else’s, drag myself to class, then work, and do it all over again. It was awesome. Probably one of the best times of my life! But it’s over now.

No, that’s not true. It’s been over for a while. I haven’t drank like that in years but sometimes I still forget and think that I can party like old times.

Big mistake.

One shot. Two shots. Three shots. Four. God knows how many more.

It was a slow night. Really slow. Painfully slow. So slow that somehow I found myself down the street spending more than I made on the opposite side of the bar as Cameltoe Joe. I can’t stand Cameltoe Joe. I didn’t want to give him any of my money but tip karma is a bitch so I threw him down a couple extra dollars for every shot.

That’s the last thing I remember. Until now: stumbling out of bed in the dark (not my bed, not my dark) and down an unfamiliar hallway in search of a wash room. The first door is just a closet. The second opens to snores better suited to a hibernating bear than a human. The third one’s a charm.

I drop my pants and plop down on the toilet. Drunk piss is always such a relief. But something doesn’t feel quite right. I frown, wobble on the seat a bit as I try to stand, and bend over to pull my pants back up.

FUCK!

I blink. Hard. My vision is blurry. Standing still takes effort and I sway on my feet as I stare in disbelief at my pelvis.

I forgot I was wearing underwear.

I forgot I was wearing underwear and I just pissed right through it. Fuck fuck fuck fuck! My head swirls and my thoughts race. My heart pounds. What the fuck do I do?

What can I do? I trip out of my pants and yank the wet drawers down, wishing I could just leave. But I am way too drunk to drive. So I’ll just throw them out right? Except . . . where is the waste basket? A frantic search of the room─behind the toilet, under the sink, even in the shower─reveals nothing; no trash can, no plastic grocery bag substitute, nothing. That’s how I find myself retracing my steps back down the hallway, pissy panties in hand, when a door creek open and a sliver of light starts in front of me.

Drunk by Proxy

drinkThere are two kinds of bartenders: sober and not sober. But that doesn’t mean everyone in the latter group is drinking behind the bar. Or snorting lines in the bathroom. Or smoking bowls in make shift pipes out back. Some of us seem to catch a buzz like a virus, spread by the patrons we serve.

Patrons who tease, “You’re cut off!” when I break a glass or a drop a bottle. I haven’t been drinking but . . . maybe I’m drunk by osmosis?

Drunk without alcohol. Whaaaat?

There are two kinds of bartenders: those that are perpetually annoyed by their patrons’ alcohol induced antics, and those don’t mind the fun, maybe even join in. It should be obvious which group is the sober one…

Again, not drinking on the job. It’s just that there is something about being around others who are imbibing, something that gets me intoxicated by proxy; that raises my voice, booms my laugh across the bar, and brings out the worst of my shit talking.

Oddly it isn’t work that makes me notice how I change when people around me drink. It’s a volleyball match; a volleyball match where three other girls have vodka in their water bottles and I don’t.

My friends get louder as we play, the jokes start rolling out. But somehow I get louder and more obnoxious than the rest. It’s like I’m intoxicated by their energy. If I get pulled over after I leave I won’t be surprised if they make we walk the white line. It’s fucking weird, I know. But I guess it’s functional right?

The Perfect Co-Star For a Dark Comedy: Tina in Suicide in Tiny Increments

It’s true, publishing my first novel took all the attention away from DBBT. To be perfectly honest, the Dive Bar Blues have been terribly neglected as of late. But don’t worry, your favorite fictional bartender has not disappeared! In fact, she’s been busy co-staring in the deliciously morbid and satirical Suicide in Tiny Increments, a dark literary fiction peppered with black humor and smothered in irony.

420Too scared to kill himself but also too scared to live, Daniel Long is a sad, pathetic man; a miserable martyr of depression. A year after he was dumped by his self-centered alcoholic girlfriend, he still wallows in the hole she left behind. And, except for the cubicle that he spends forty hours a week in, Daniel rarely leaves the bare white walls that make up his apartment. Trapped in his self-made ennui, his only escape is to hire a hitman. But when one of his few friends kills herself Daniel realizes the error of his ways. He tries to cancel the hit but in the process he offends his contracted killer. Now his impending death is personal and his life is about to get more exciting than he ever could have imagined.

Suicide in Tiny increments is available as a paperback, a Kindle Book, and a variety of other e-reader formats.

 

Suicide in Tiny Increments

 

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Dive Bar Nepotism

Dive Bar Nepotism

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if Charlie is trying to run this place into the ground on purpose.  Between charging for tap water and beer backs, catering to regulars who don’t spend any money at the expense of new customers, and the condensation I find in countless bottles of vodka, it is really no surprise the parking lot is empty when I arrive for my shift.  I am surprised, however, by the new face sitting at the bar.

“This is my nephew, John,” Charlie introduces us.  John also goes by the name Peyton Manning… just in case anyone calls the bar asking for him.

“Um, ok,” I say, confused at why this near 40 year old burnout with yellowed eyes and pants three sizes too big has adopted the moniker of a famous quarterback.

“I’m putting him in charge,” Charlie says.  “This place needs some new life and this kid, this kid right here, he’s got some great ideas.”

Kid?  This “kid’s” hairline recedes, but instead of rounding out at the back like a cul-de-sac, the baldness continues down the back of his head to his neck, so that what hair he does have left exists as strips down the sides of his head kind of like a reverse Mohawk.  “Yeah, what kind of ideas?”

“You know, like ladies night, getting a DJ in here,” the aging wangster says as he takes a long pull off a well drink.

“Right…” I say, my blood seething in my veins.  Like no one has told Charlie he needs to get with the basic staples of the bar business already.  Like I haven’t written out lists of real ideas that Charlie promptly ignored…

After the owner leaves I ask our new “manager” about the last bar he ran.  “Oh I ain’t never ran a bar before,” he says.

Okay… “So where have you bartended?”

He shakes his head.  “I ain’t a bartender, I’m a hustler,” he says with a proud smirk.  Further digging, a little asking around, and the full picture is painted:  John is a high school dropout; closest he ever got to a real job was raking leaves on a work crew during one of many stints in prison.  He starts talking about how he’s going to run dollar shots tonight and I’m thinking I might have to break the Visine out again if this place is going to keep from going under.

A Cameo of Sorts

Suicide in Tiny IncrementsTina, the star of Dive Bar Blues Tales is a character that made her first appearance in my (as of yet) unpublished novel Suicide in Tiny Increments.  In the novel she is quite a few years older, no longer working at the bar and has instead returned to desk work in the bureaucracy.  A lot happens in between DBBT and the chapter I am about to share with you, so keep that in mind in regards to the evolution of her character.  If you would prefer to read the PDF version click here.  For the novel synopsis and more from my other manuscripts click here.

Enjoy!

Chapter Eleven: Hostage

from Suicide in Tiny Increments by Riya Anne Polcastro

It was a nice run, but Daniel’s foray into optimism was inevitably enveloped by the shadow of his failures and general unhappiness. Maybe there had been a chance for him, while Jennifer was still alive. But now? What was the point? “I’m just gonna go home,” he said. “While I still have one. This is ridiculous. I shouldn’t be imposing on you like this.”

“Oh stop it,” she said, her gaze resting on a fashion spread of shoes so expensive she had never seen them in any local stores.

“I need to figure out what to do with my stuff anyway.” He pushed himself off of her sunken leather couch with a grunt, grabbed his backpack from the corner and headed for the door. He stopped and turned to say goodbye. “Thanks for everything.”

She finally looked up from her magazine. “You don’t need to go.”

“Yeah,” he said with a sigh. “I do.”  With that he drove home, his usual route, his pre-hit man route, without any extra turns or detours. He parked in his assigned spot. He trudged up the stairs to his apartment and stuck his key in the door. Over the threshold and back into his old life, he was ambivalent. He had been scared to live and scared to die for too long. He had been committing suicide in teeny tiny increments, putting death on layaway, for as long as he could remember. The time had come to accept fate; to let what was meant to happen just happen already. As for his own hand in this, the hand that had brought all of this about, well there was nothing he could do about that now, he may as well just go along with it. Stop fighting to prolong this miserable existence. Give in. Lay back and take the bullet. So he went through his usual routines, feeling dull. Like a butter knife. Unpolished; silver plated.

He made himself a drink and watched a game but the Coke with his Captain was flat and when he tried to cheer for his team basketball seemed so minuscule in the whole scheme of things. Inside, he was hollow. Like the gaudy butt of that same plated knife.
This is what it all came down to. That was all his story was about. Boredom. Melancholy. Indecisive resolve. He would finally get what he wanted, but only because he had finally realized that it was a stupid thing to want in the first place.

Meanwhile Tina wasn’t taking his resignation and departure with quite as much calm. She drank gin and tonics steadily through the afternoon and evening, picturing her life without Daniel, without the one person she could tell all of her suicidal fantasies to. He was her relief valve; when the pressure built up she released her pent up angst and he would listen and not judge her or freak out and call the crisis line. Instead he might offer a suicide pact or at the very least bemoan his own desperation to expire. If Daniel was killed, who would she talk to? She wouldn’t let it happen! She couldn’t! If only for her own selfish reasons, she would save Daniel Long.

Tina grabbed her gun from where it had fallen on the floor, then a steak knife from the kitchen drawer, and slid both into her purse. Out the front door, down the steps, to her car, too drunk and determined to care about her blood alcohol content. What was a fucking DUI when her safety net was about to be cut down?

* * *

Daniel woke to a drunken shadow hovering over him. His heart skipped and then galloped in fear. Death had finally come for him. Just as expected, so predictable after all. Daniel didn’t move. He was frozen in the fetal position; the figure haunted the corner of his eye, unable to turn his head far enough to confirm his fear. Why didn’t the hit man get it over with? But the figure just stood there, doing nothing, saying nothing. Daniel still too scared to move. It was a stalemate of sorts, until the figure raised a knife above its head. He had not expected Death to use a knife. Especially a small one like that, a common kitchen knife. Something wasn’t right. Then, a drunken wail, a high pitched bass if there could be such a thing, a growl and a roar and a shriek all in one, and the figure brought the knife down and in, stabbing itself in the thigh. A quick red trail shone in the dark and ran down the jeaned leg. The figure proceeded to stab itself a second, third, fourth, fifth time.

“Tina!” Daniel yelled in horror when he finally got up the nerve to turn and look the figure in the face.  In his fantasies Tina burst in on the 11th hour of his impending suicide and saved him with her proclamation of eternal love. She convinced him to live. She told him she wanted to marry him, bear his children. She didn’t stand over him and stab herself!

Six. Seven.

“Tina! Stop!”

Eight.

He scrambled from the bed and rushed at her. There were tears in her eyes and her face was wet, shiny in the moonlight that crept between the blinds. She backed away and drew her gun, pointing it at him. “You’re coming with me!” she demanded, her voice an angry snarl atremble with despair.

This was the opposite of love. This was control and abuse and fear. This was not what he had dreamed of, or even what he had feared in his worst nightmares. What would she do with him? Would she torture him? Pull out his fingernails with a pair of pliers? Make him watch daytime television while she used him as a foot rest and sounding board for her psychotic female ranting? Would she force him into unmentionable acts? Would she don that strap on she always talked about? Make him pay for the sins his brothers had committed against her sisters?

Daniel shuddered, his hands on the wheel, ten and two. She forced him to drive so she could hold a towel to her bloodied leg. He tried to argue when she directed him back to her place. “Shouldn’t I take you to the emergency room instead?”

“I’ll be fine.” Her voice was dry and hollow, her gaze aimed sideways out the window even though her eyes were really watching her captive.

“You might need stitches.”

“It was dull. Barely went through my pants.”

“So you’re going to wait until you have gangrene and they have to cut your leg off?” Daniel was exasperated, exhausted by his distress for this person who had turned out to be so alien, so different, and yet so exactly like the person he had been friends with for so many years.

She looked over at him, her eyes tight, two small slits of insult. “I know how to clean a wound. Not the first time I’ve done something stupid,” she mumbled.

That was true, he had to admit. There were the burn marks on her feet from when she was passed over for a promotion, knocked over a barbecue in a drunken rage and proceeded to walk on the hot coals; the minute scarring on the inside of her knees from breakups and pinpricks; the pinched squished scarred holes on the sides of her wrists from anything that threatened to wrench tears from her eyes. Tina never went to the doctor for these or any other self-inflicted wounds. Nothing had ever gotten infected before, why should she worry now?

“This is different. You stabbed yourself…”

“Shut up.”

“No.” He turned to her, his face contorted with concern. He was both scared of her and for her.

Her furrowed brow reflected in the purple tinted window of her Japanese sports car and she repeated her demand. “Shut the fuck up.”

“You need help.”  He had only mumbled but he may as well have yelled it.

Tina was instantly furious. “You know what? Fuck you!”Daniel inhaled hard and deep, trying to stay calm. But she pulled the gun on him anyway. From the passenger side, aimed it at his right temple. “Fuck you! You need help! You can’t fucking talk to me! You’re the sicko! You hired a hit man to kill yourself! You wanted to die so bad but you were too pussy to do it, you’re the fuckingsicko!” She breathed deep and heavy. Angry. Bleeding. Drunk. Tina was the type of person that boiled and seethed. Even in her greatest sadness, even in her ultimate despair, rage was her go to emotion. Sometimes it was so powerful she didn’t understand where it had come from, so out of proportion with reality, with the here and now, as it was. It could overtake her. Convince her to commit spontaneous acts of stupidity: break beer bottles in the street, spar with a best friend, stab herself in the leg. She could be like a rabid animal, furious to the point of psychosis. Alcohol didn’t help. Afterwards, she would know that she had gone too far, she would vow to never let it happen again. Until the next time. It was the pattern of domestic violence, without the domesticity.

Maybe it was best not to talk. Daniel decided to remain silent, refrain from speaking until spoken to or something like that. And so after a few moments she dropped the gun and the ride was completely silent, Tina staring out the window, a-fume, while he made his best attempt to be non-existent. But his heart still beat faster as they drew close to her complex and pulled into her parking spot. It still raced as they climbed the stairs to her flat and as she locked the door behind them. Was he really a hostage now? Daniel didn’t know what to expect. What to think. Should he try to escape?

On the upside Death did not stand a chance against this crazy bitch.

Daniel’s present dangers gave meaning to his life, gave him something to fight, a monster or two to vanquish. Something better to wrestle with than the backhanded compliments divvied out in the break room by a post-menopausal woman whose clothes always carried the heady mildew of a poorly assembled manufactured home. And so even though he was scared for his life, between being kidnapped by Tina and hunted by Death, he felt a hell of a lot more alive than when he was dodging supervisors and prioritizing clients. And more than anything? More than anything he wasn’t BORED. Daniel glowed with enlightenment. Eyes wide open; he could see that which had been right in front of him all along, obvious to everyone else. Hidden under his suicidal fantasies, under all of his grief and sadness, was good old fashioned boredom. Like Tina, he had blown things way out of proportion. Not only that, but he had fashioned his own prison, he could dismantle it. The sources of his misery, his boredom, he could change them! Daniel thought he might know what Buddha felt like on his awakening.

Bald, fat, happy.

* * *

Death did not come that night or the next. Tina had figured that, figured he would wait a few days for her to drop her guard. But that wouldn’t happen, she was prepared for him, she was ready whenever he might come, day or night. Daniel’s first two days as a captive were Saturday and Sunday. Monday, he figured, Monday would bring the freedom. Freedom to shit by himself, to masturbate. He had been holding the toxins in, waiting for some privacy. But Monday came and Tina did not wake up early to shower and put on one of her pin striped skirt suits. She did not make herself a double espresso or toast two pieces of whole wheat bread or dig into a grapefruit. Worst of all, she did not leave! She just kept watching him. Watching the door, the balcony. Listening for the slightest sound of suspicion. She had the television remote on a hair trigger, one footfall and it was instantly on mute.

An eight ball was delivered just after his capture. It was the first time she had made a purchase for herself, the first time she wasn’t just the middle man, the go-between, the skimmer off the top. She snorted lines in front of him to sleep as little as possible. She didn’t share. When she did sleep it was with one eye open. Instead of snapping out of her rage, lack of sleep fueled it. But at least it had grown quiet, introverted, directed at herself instead of Daniel. She watched him, true, but she did not lash out at him anymore. Silent, she picked and twisted at a spot inside of her elbow. And she drank. Bloody Marys in the morning. Blended Margaritas in the afternoon. Gin and tonics after dark.

Truth be told, Daniel was more scared for her than for himself. As luck would have it, since her knives had never been sharpened, the wounds in her leg were mostly superficial. The deepest one, in the center of her thigh, had gone past the last layer of skin, maybe even into the fat, but it had failed to reach the meat. And she kept it clean in drunken ritual twice a day: first rinsing with sea salt dissolved in hot water, then wiping clean with alcohol, before bandaging the whole thing up again. More than puncture wounds her thigh was covered in deep bruises. It was the bruising, the feeling of a Charlie horse with each step, that made her hobble about the apartment for the first two days. But it wasn’t the physical wounds that worried Daniel. Tina’s emotional wounds ran much deeper. Of course, whatever those wounds were, they were a mystery to him. All he knew was that her head was all sorts of fucked up. True, he had always known that. To an extent anyway, but he had been under the illusion that she had it together better than he did. Clearly he had been wrong. Whatever it was that tortured her, he feared it was worse than his own boredom, his self-induced misery. Worse, whatever it was gave her the capacity to do things he could never dream of.

Tuesday came and Tina still did not rise at the crack of dawn, trade her bed on the couch for a hot shower, or her pajamas for a black pencil skirt and hot pink v-neck sweater, her Bloody Mary for a cappuccino and a poached egg. She kept watching. Waiting. Listening. Drinking. Chopping and snorting. “He’ll come tonight,” she said , half-way through her first Margarita of the afternoon. She said it calmly, straight face, matter of fact.

Daniel wondered how she could be so sure but he didn’t question her, didn’t say anything, just nodded and tried to prepare himself for whatever would happen after the sun set. The afternoon dragged on into an anxious sluggish evening. He tapped his feet incessantly, nervous energy flowing through them. Whatever happened, it wouldn’t be the monotony of a tedious desk job. And even though he had been trapped in a living room for four days with nothing to do but watch TV, this wasn’t the boredom of his day to day sequestered apartment life. Something decisive was about to happen. He might live. He might die. He might even kill
to live. But this bullshit with the hit man and crazy ass Tina, if she was right it would finally come to a head. There would be action. Excitement. Danger. Freedom. Either from this life or the boredom of the one he had been abducted from.

His faith did eventually wane. As midnight became one in the morning, then two. He moved from the armchair in the corner where he sat during the day to the air mattress and sleeping bag on the floor. “I’m going to sleep,” he told her. She just sat there, in the same alert straight-backed position she had been in for days, didn’t say a thing. She didn’t go brush her teeth or empty her bladder or even get another drink. “You’re not going to sleep?” he asked.

She shook her head. “I’m going to wait him out.”

Two thirty. Daniel couldn’t sleep. He counted her breaths, slow and measured. She hadn’t moved. Two forty five. Still awake. Still counting. Three a.m. Eyelids drooping, sleep settling in. Tina unmoving until 3:06 a.m. when she clicks the power button on the TV remote. Four a.m. Fast asleep. Unaware of the armed woman on the couch.

Sometime between then and when the birds began to chirp there was a battery operated whirr at the balcony door. Then a click and the door swung open, silent, oiled seconds earlier with a generous spray of WD-40. Tina sat flush with the couch, unmoving, her profile hidden by a strategically placed bookshelf. A dark figure entered the apartment, shutting the door on the last sliver of light. He crept, slow, quiet, towards the living room, to where Daniel lay in the middle of the living room floor, front and center, purposeful prominent target, un-missable, completely distracting. Tina knew her enemy, knew he would be so drawn to the target in plain view he would forget to look for the hidden one. The quick scan of the room he did, he only checked to see that there was no one sprawled out on the couch. He did not bother to look for the shadows at its head, the motionless form still against the bookshelf. He did not see the gun rise from her side and point towards his frontal lobe. Death had failed the most basic test. He had failed to pay attention. And it would cost him. He didn’t know she was there until she spoke.

“Freeze.” Her voice was stern, a command from the deepest part of her diaphragm.  Death looked up to the faint outline of a barrel and knew he was fucked. “Put your hands up!” She rose from the couch, 9mm still aimed at his head. He did as he was told.

Daniel was jolted from his short sleep. Above him, Death, prostrated, hands on his head.  Across from the hit man, Tina with her finger on the trigger, rage bubbling in her eyes, a snarl on her lips. This was his chance.
“That way,” Tina ordered her new captive, directing him through the dining room, kitchen, down the hall. The bathroom fan flipped on, Tina’s extra insurance for that left over blip of space age sounding discharge from the silencer.

This was Daniel’s cue. As if in one quick stride, he bolted from his makeshift bed and crawled on his dimpled elbows towards the dining room. He planned to make it to the front door and slip out quietly while Tina sent Death to his grave and decided how to dispose of his body. He wouldn’t have long. She had probably been thinking about it all night. She had already stocked the bathroom with extra bleach.

As it turned out, he didn’t even have as long as he thought. To everyone’s great surprise Death turned and bolted back down the hallway when she ordered him into the bathroom. She fired immediately, he dove the rest of the way to the front door and the bullet hit the foyer wall instead. Daniel changed course, jumping to his feet and throwing open the balcony door. He hurled himself over the balcony, the most athletic move he had ever made. With a stumble he hit the grass below and took off at a sprint. It wasn’t pretty, Daniel knew, the sight of a fat man running. His man boobs flopped with each stride and he was glad it was still dark. His belly bounced, his balls swung. Sweat collected in his folds and poured from atop his bald head.

The birds started to chirp and he feared the impending sun rise. Where could he go? He couldn’t hide forever, couldn’t run forever. Who could he call? He ran through the options in his head, the short list of people who could help him. There was Brian; his only guy friend might let him sleep on his couch for a night. But might was the operative word. If he told him the truth about why he needed to stay, Brian would just tell him to call the police. As he ran through fewer names than he could count on one hand Daniel realized that just about everyone on that list would tell him the same exact thing. Except… there was a pair. He hadn’t talked to either of them in so long, how could he even ask them for help now? Still, if he had any hope at all it was them…